I remember, as a child, waking up every Saturday morning excited to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I couldn’t wait to grow up and pull some of the moves that Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello executed with style. I quickly developed respect for their Sensei Splinter, who could deliver a mean blow and walk away with a docile demeanour. At the same time, the four 3 Little Ninjas movies, were released, which again solidified my dreams of being a Ninja.
By the time Kill Bill came out and I saw the Crazy 88’s scene, I realized I had lost sight of my vision, and although I’m sure it was achievable, I already had a full time, demanding job. Growing up is not fun. There are 18 different skills to master before you can call yourself a ninja. Some of them include moving silently, impersonation, sword fighting, the art of escape, and appearing invisible.
Some of the weaponry involved in ninjutsu is amazingly crafted and art in themselves. Take the katana, for example. These swords are made by first folding layers of steel, traditionally Japanese steel known as tamahagane. This allows for flexibility while providing a hard leading- or cutting edge.
You may not be able to control your surroundings, but you can control how you react to them. You may not be able to manage your attackers either, but you can predict their moves to try stay one step ahead. Ninjas are taught to handle stress in such a way that they remain calm, they manage their breathing and stay aware of their 360-degree surroundings. If anxiety, fear and anger can set in causing a smaller angle of awareness, leaving them open to attackers from other aspects, they may not be focusing on.
Every event, be it a good one or a bad one, provides a possibility to learn. Ninjas lived their training and aimed to take something positive from every encounter and use it in the next, egos and pride did not stop them from going back to the beginning. A somewhat positive outlook we should all consider weaving into our everyday lives.
Being able to perform well in stressful, uncomfortable environments is another fundamental of ninjutsu. Fear should not be eliminated, but neither should it paralyze a martial artist. People training in the art of modern ninjutsu often push themselves to uncomfortable limits. Some train in complete darkness, some have to defend themselves against multiple attackers while handcuffed. Ninjas prepare themselves for any attack by considering lessons learnt from the past and creating potential future scenarios to protect themselves against.
The movies and animations make ninjas seem untouchable and the dream unreachable, for those over the age of 30. Kids, however, believe they can do anything, and with that mindset, they can. But with the right dedication, focus and determination, anyone can reach some level in ninjutsu, and I believe we should. It will only reflect positively on our everyday lives.